President Donald Trump warned Russian President Vladimir Putin in a conversation the U.S. would pummel his country in a revamped arms race, according to an NBC Thursday report.
The Kremlin wouldn’t stand a chance in a Cold War-style nuclear arms race, Trump said in a March 21 phone call with Putin shortly after the Russian president won re-election. Trump also alerted European leaders Putin sounded dangerous, an adviser aware of the conversation told NBC.
“If you want to have an arms race, we can do that, but I’ll win,” the officials said the president told Putin. The president’s tougher stance stems from Putin’s early March claim Russia has new nuclear-capable weapons that could hit the U.S. The Russian leader’s bold talk “really got under the president’s skin,” one official said.
Trump called the leaders of France, Germany and the U.K. to say the Russian leader sounded dangerous in a speech Trump watched — the four countries need to stick together, according to a White House official familiar with the calls.
The president slowly but surely tightened the screws on Putin. The White House recently leveled a series of sanctions against Russia and announced on March 26 the U.S. would expel 60 Russian diplomats — the largest number since the Cold War — in response to Moscow’s alleged nerve-agent attack on a former U.K. spy.
Trump wants a better relationship with Russia to prove he can accomplish it, one official said. The president believes a stable U.S. relationship with the former communist country is important if the U.S. wants to find a solution to the conflict in Syria. Trump is carrying on a line many of his predecessors took against Russia.
Former President Barack Obama also tried forging a relationship with Moscow during the early part of his time in office. Obama was caught on a hot microphone in 2012, telling then-Russian President Dmitri Medvedev he would have more flexibility to negotiate on issues like missile defense after the 2012 election.